Well that was easy. After all the complaining and trash talking from the Chicago Bulls after the March 12th loss to the Miami Heat at the AA Arena
everyone was expecting a dogfight with both teams battling for playoff positioning. The added attraction was the fact that it was the last visit by Dwyane Wade to his hometown for this season and the TNT national broadcast so you would think the Bulls with their precarious position in the standings would have come out with some fire and energy. Instead what we got treated to was the Heat exposing the Bulls’ interior defense (without a fully healthy Joakim Noah) and the Bulls settling for outside jumpers that were clanging off the rim. While there has been plenty of second-guessing about how well Erik Spoelstra is running this Heat team, Vinny Del Negro was completely out-schooled and had a "Dead Man Walking" look on his face from the bench the entire game.
The Bulls have had their share of injuries to their team (Luol Deng was out with a calf injury and Noah was limited to 10 minutes) but the reality is that this was an embarrassing effort for an NBA team regardless of whatever excuse there might be. The same could have been said for the Heat’s last opponent the New Jersey Nets but at least they put up a good fight and lost by only 10 points. This was an example of how an NBA game can be lost in the first quarter. With no reliable scorer or at least a go-to guy (like a Ben Gordon or John Salmons) when other players are shooting blanks the Bulls couldn’t come up with an answer to a Heat team that has been playing with focus this month as they seek to climb up the Eastern Conference standings. If keeping Del Negro as the coach and trading away Salmons to your rival Bucks wasn't an indication enough of the Bulls brass giving up on this season then this game sealed any doubts a Bulls fan may have had. The Bulls are rolling the dice that they can sign a prime free agent this season apparently forgetting that the best they could come up with the last time they had cap space was an over-the-hill Ben Wallace.
Jermaine O’Neal continues perhaps his best stretch as a Heat player and has only one single digit scoring game this month owing to an injury sustained during the second quarter in a win against the Hawks
. Taking that game away O’Neal is averaging 17.6 points for the month, which is up from his season average of 13.8 points. One of the bigger knocks against the Heat this season is that they didn’t have a reliable scoring option after Wade. With his resurgence that could be attributed to his chemistry with the second unit O’Neal has answered the call and picked his game up when most critics figured he would run out of gas at this time of the season.
The Heat could be a dangerous first round opponent with a triple offensive threat of Jermaine, Wade and Michael Beasley. Mixed with a steady Arroyo, Richardson and Haslem and the Heat are looking more and more like a team that Wade should be comfortable with staying, unlike the current disarray that is the Chicago Bulls franchise.